As we approach mosquito season, I thought you’d enjoy this post from August 3, 2013, reflecting on a story in Paramahansa Yogananda’s Autobiography of a Yogi, a book I set aside when it became “too magical” for me but have recently picked up again and finished reading with greater appreciation. Incidentally, this is the only book Steve Jobs had on his iPad when he died, and those attending his memorial service received a copy of it at his request.
Sometimes my spiritual life is just plain spooky.
The morning I write this, my morning prayers on the deck were interrupted by the presence of what I thought to be a mosquito. Now I am considered quite juicy in the mosquito community, unlike my partner Wade, who never needs to use insect repellant as I do to keep the little vampires at bay. And though I had administered that sacred ointment, I thought it possible a missed spot might be too inviting. My heavy New Jerusalem Bible came in handy and dropping it on the pest proved fatal.
Yet I immediately felt regret taking a life. I’m one of those people who take spiders and other critters (roaches excepted) outside where they belong and liberate flies and wasps from entrapment between windows and screens if I can, though the latter I do at some risk, for a sting sent me to the emergency room a few years back, in an ambulance no less.
Examining the remains on the back cover of my Bible, I was no longer certain it was a mosquito, and the best I could do was hope that I had sent it on to its next and hopefully better life! Before you think what a gentle and kind person I must be, all of this is a little disingenuous because I am by no means a vegetarian. But though I can eat meat, I could never kill the animal who provided it.
As you will remember from an earlier post, I am reading Paramahansa Yogananda’s autobiography, and today he finally found his primary guru, Sri Yukteswar. And here’s where it gets spooky, or synchronicitous or miraculous if you like. In answer to his devotee’s concern about mosquitos, the guru tells him, “Is the whole world going to change for you? Change yourself: be rid of the mosquito consciousness.”
During one teaching session, however, the teenage Yogananda is distracted by a mosquito and, as it proceeded to dig “a poisonous ‘hypodermic needle’” into his thigh, he raised a hand to swat it, but then remembered ahimsa (non-violence). Yuksteswar offered a puzzling response, “Why didn’t you finish the job?”
When asked if he agreed with taking a life, the master replied, “No, but in your mind you had already struck the deathblow.” He went on to say that ahimsa means removal of the desire to kill, then explains, “This world is inconveniently arranged for a literal practice of ahimsa. Man may be compelled to exterminate harmful creatures. He is not under a similar compulsion to feel anger or animosity,” thus “overcoming the passion of destruction.”
Of course the context verifies that “harmful creatures” applies only to dangerous insects or threatening wild animals. Yet even in that context, one is best not driven by anger or animosity. Jesus said something like this when he added to the commandment “You shall not murder” the more far reaching “if you are angry with a brother or sister, you will be liable to judgment.” Or added simple lust to “You shall not commit adultery.”
If only I could achieve mosquito consciousness, realizing that they too, in the words of Yukteswar, “have an equal right to the air of maya,” I could leave them be and save money on bug spray. Maybe in my next and better life!
Copyright © 2013 Chris R. Glaser. Permission granted for non-profit use with attribution of author and blogsite. Other rights reserved.
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